Only a footstep away Neighbourhoods, you and the government
8 Principles of new government Government interventions should look to build social capital and community confidence and capacity from the outset. Particular value should be placed on activity that promotes the quality and strength of neighbour to neighbour relationships and a community’s ability to self-organise on the basis of altruistic exchange of resources, skills and time, Policies should seek to stimulate the development of new types of economic activity that are participative and promote greater distribution of economic power and influence
8 Principles of new government There will need to be much more acceptance of social diversity, disaggregation and localisation There will be a need to look at the relative size of the institutions that deliver public services, and a reversal of easy assumptions around scale and efficiency. There will be a need to increasingly differentiate between not-for-profit organisations contracting to fulfil the service delivery functions of the state and community-based voluntarism.
8 Principles of new government The expectation of local and mutual responsibility-taking should be signalled by the release of correspondingly localised decision-making powers. Finally, policy interventions will need to take long-term account of changing demographics and their impact on society’s economic productivity, the government’s fiscal position, demand on services, and the social nature of our communities. Matt Leach is associate director of ResPublica. http://www.respublica.org.uk/blog/2010/12/8-new-policy-principles-big-society
‘only a footstep away’?: neighbourhoods, social capital & their place in the ‘big society’ a skills for care workforce development background paperjune 2010 Skills for Care, ‘Only a footstep away’? Neighbourhoods, social capital & their place in the ‘Big Society’, (Leeds, 2010) www.skillsforcare.org.uk
Almost everyone has neighbours, yet the neighbourhood is a relatively neglected level of analysis - the bulk of academic and policy attention has focused upon the levels above the neighbourhood (the political, economic and value systems of society as a whole) or beneath it (inter-personal relationships in settings such as the family).
10 years of strategy The importance of the neighbourhood in people’s lives has slowly gained a foothold in policy visions, notably as a key aspect of the last government’s Social Exclusion Strategy (SEU 2000, 2001). possible strands to neighbourhood renewal including: jobs and training, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, provision of better community facilities, tackling problems of neglected and abandoned housing, rebuilding community support and providing greater assistance to schools and young people.
5 years later Why Neighbourhoods Matter make a real difference to the quality and responsiveness of services that are delivered to or affect those neighbourhoods increase the involvement of the community in the making of decisions on the provision of those services and on the life of the neighbourhood provide opportunities for public service providers and voluntary and community groups to work together to deliver outcomes for the locality build social capital—reducing isolation whilst building community capacity and cohesion.
In the election Labour Party was considering a manifesto pledge to turn schools and hospitals into ‘mutualised co-ops’ where staff and local people have a real stake in service improvement. The Conservative Party has placed emphasis upon encouraging families, charities and communities to come together to solve problems (Guardian 2009), and their election manifesto highlighted the ambition for “every adult citizen being a member of an active neighbourhood group,” and outlined plans to introduce a National Citizen Service for 16 year olds “to help bring our country together” The Liberal Democrat manifesto similarly stated a commitment “to handing power back to local communities.
Big Society “to put more power and opportunity into people’s hands” give communities more powers encourage people to take an active role in their communities transfer power from central to local government support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises publish government data.
Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, The challenge would be to bring about “a huge cultural shift, where people, in their everyday lives, in their communities, in their homes, on their street, don’t always turn to answers from officialdom, from local authorities, from government, but that they feel both free and empowered to help themselves and help their own communities.”
proximity much agreement that neighbours live within walking distance and that face-to-face contact is possible. Models of community mapping, or population profiling, use such an approach. For example, Mosaic is a methodology that classifies UK postcodes against more than 400 socio-demographic variables. Residents within a specific postcode area are more likely to reflect the characteristics of that group than of another.
meaning Thus while neighbourhoods may be defined geographically for some purposes, the meaning of neighbourhoods is generally understood in terms of social networks and relationships. a conflict between subjective and objective maps of locality.
Being nearby “It is only in the working class that one is likely to find a combination of factors all operating together to produce a high degree of density: concentration of people of the same or similar occupations in the local area; jobs and homes in the same local area; low population turnover and continuity of relationships; at least occasional opportunities for relatives and friends to help one another to get jobs; little demand for physical mobility; little opportunity for social mobility.” (Bridge 2002, 10)
Decline of community Arguments about the decline of community are in large measure arguments about an unavoidable decline in the density of local social networks (or neighbourhoods). High density has generally been associated with solidarity, commitment and normative consensus, whereas low density is held to bring about all sorts of contrary conditions. It is through the erosion of density that modernisation and urbanisation are said to have weakened traditional social solidarities,
Social mobility Most neighbourhoods today do not constrain their inhabitants into strongly bonded relationships with one another. Better transport, longer journeys to work, geographical dispersal of kin and friends, a wider range of shopping and recreational opportunities, and the privatisation of the family, have all reduced the centrality of the neighbourhood as a locus of social interaction and social support.
Neighbourliness?? Manifest neighbourliness is characterised by overt forms of social relationships such as mutual visiting in the home and going out for leisure and recreation. Latent neighbourliness is characterised by favourable attitudes to neighbours which result in positive action when a need arises in times of emergency or crisis. (Mann 1954)
Abrams neighbours are simply people who live near one another neighbourhood is an effectively defined terrain inhabited by neighbours neighbouring is the actual pattern of interaction observed within any given neighbourhood neighbourliness is a positive and committed relationship constructed between neighbours as a form of friendship.
Neighbourliness physical environment proximity timeliness length of residence social polarisation social relations
proximity Abrams research (Bulmer 1986) found that the most frequently mentioned influence on whether or not neighbourly relations developed was proximity – being next door to someone is different from living in the next street to them. Proximity is also related to the previously noted importance of the ‘watch and ward’ function in times of crisis and emergency. the neighbourhood unequivocally starts as we leave our front door, where it ends will vary according to many spatial and temporal factors, but the concept of a ‘walkable zone’ remains important.
“People endow a neighbourhood with organisation through their walking patterns from the nodal points of their homes—walking children to school, walking to the bus stop or local shops, and walking to call on neighbours... but the extent to which a neighbourhood emerges empirically depends on whether local interactions create common attributes bounded by group properties.” (Blackman 2006, 33)
Timeliness Speed of response is a further special province of neighbours, ranging from the quick convenience of ad hoc borrowing and lending, to help in an emergency when time is of the essence. availability of time to participate in neighbouring is one of the factors associated with the ‘loss of community’. ‘neighbouring is not what it used to be’ is explained in terms of the availability of time.
Physical environment Inside the home – whether it is damp, cold, noisy or overcrowded – sits within the wider neighbourhood context of which it is a part. There is also some evidence to suggest that the physical layout of both the house and the neighbourhood can shape levels of neighbourly activity. significance of the front porch as a semi-public space in which non-threatening and non-intrusive neighbourly relations could be initiated and reproduced.
Length of residence obvious factor accounting for variations in neighbouring was the longevity of the settlement and the length of residence there of particular households. Clear differences were observed between long-time residents and newcomers in terms of contact with neighbours and the sort of help exchanged. Exchange theory. In the modern neighbourhood milieu, exchange relations will typically evolve as a slow process, starting with minor transactions in which little trust is required because little risk is involved.
social polarisation Reciprocal care between neighbours grows where information and trust are high, and where resources for satisfying needs in other ways are low. This is most likely to occur in relatively isolated, relatively closed and relatively threatened social milieu with highly homogeneous populations. in their study of young people growing up in depressed parts of Teesside, Macdonald and Marsh (2005) found that most chose to remain living in very deprived neighbourhoods, seeing these as ‘normal’. Local social divisions were perceived instead at a very fine-grained scale such as streets or parts of an estate with troublesome residents.
Social relations argued that most neighbours do not typically choose to make their friends among their neighbours, and that those who do tend to be seeking highly specific solutions to highly specific problems. Bridge (2002) describes this situation as ‘residual neighbouring’ for people who do not have access to broader networks. Social exclusion in terms of ‘social relations’, which included such factors as isolation and loneliness, and lack of participation in everyday social activities. many older people who live alone (and are hence technically ‘isolated’) do lead socially active lives and have close friendships that are more important than thinning family ties.
Building Cohesive Communities Department of Communities and Local Government (2009) identifies the following dimensions of ‘commitment to a shared future’: wanting to live in the area using local services, shops, schools and businesses investing in local social capital such as volunteering, attending neighbourhood forums and being local leaders feeling safe and having contact with neighbours having a sense of their own power to be involved and to influence understanding and welcoming the range of different people in the area developing a local identity focusing on shared local experiences. What is less clear is how all of this can be brought about.
Putting People First established by the previous administration (DH 2007). Building Community Capacity (DHCN) focused on exploring the role of social capital and co-production in the transformation of adult social care, which comprises the fourth quadrant of transformation
Innovative practice A series of case study vignettes on the Building Community Capacity website outlines some of the innovations currently underway. These include examples of population profiling, community development, social enterprise development, auditing community volunteering, time banking, homesharing, ‘buddy’ schemes, etc.
Neighbourhood Renewal Neighbourhood Renewal (NR) Strategy action plan (CO/SEU 2001) with the aim that no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live because of ‘failing’ local services or a poor environment. Funding for NR programmes was initially allocated to the 88 most deprived areas in England with the expectation that the (then) growing budgets for mainstream public services would underpin the NR strategies, and that there would be further targeting of the most deprived neighbourhoods. Safer Stronger Communities Fund (SSCF) in 2006 to focus on these small localities in 84 local authority areas Neighbourhood Element which provides funding for 100 of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England
Results of all the effort? The final evaluation of the neighbourhood renewal strategy has recently been published (DCLG 2010a). Although it concludes that changes in the conditions of the more deprived neighbourhoods have improved, and that the gap with the national average has closed, it is clear that they remain a long way behind and are beginning to feel the impact of the recession. New Deal for Communities programme (DCLG 2010b). Here there was also an improvement on most core indicators, especially in people’s feelings about their neighbourhoods. Stronger relationships were established with those agencies having a ‘natural’ neighbourhood presence (like the police), but little improvement in the generation of social capital was evident.
Neighbourhood Management Neighbourhood Agreements to be piloted by the Home Office, which will give the public in a local area more say about how issues where they live can best be tackled, and lead to allocations of resources that better reflect community priorities. The Community Assets Programme will aim to empower communities by encouraging the transfer of under-used local authority assets to local organisations. Social Impact Bonds aim to attract non-government investment into local activities with returns generated from a proportion of the related reduction in government spending on acute services. Social Investment Wholesale Bank to provide capital to organisations delivering social impact to support the sustainability of social enterprises. Civic Health Index to enable people to assess how well civic society is faring and how it can be enabled to thrive.
neighbourhood mapping and data analysis Community profiling avoidance of the temptation to start with a ‘laundry list’ of everyone who has a stake in the neighbourhood. who acts and interacts, around what and with whom. ‘Super Output Areas’ (SOA) of populations of around 7000 attempts to bring together a high volume of information provided for small target areas. SOA data can include: health and care data on life expectancy, hospital episodes, healthy lifestyle behaviours and the provision of unpaid care crime and community safety data covering crime, fires and road accidents community well-being information on community involvement, social inclusion and street cleanliness housing data sets on tenure and condition, overcrowding and homelessness economic deprivation data relating to economic activity, poverty and welfare benefits. The ability to create you own data: “the quality and quantity of timely and publicly available service data at a neighbourhood level for most mainstream services remains severely limited” (DCLG 2008e, 11).
Supporting evidence for local delivery 80% of partnership managers identified analytical skill needs within their partnership, most frequently relating to interpreting and challenging data aspects of these needs include knowing how to ‘create a narrative’ from data analysis and assessing the quality of evidence 40% of partnership managers indicated that limits on available analytical skills had hampered partnership performance there is relatively short supply of expertise in statistical techniques, IT applications, indicator selection and target setting the scale of the skills gap is likely to be understated – a common response was ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ nearly half of partnership managers experienced difficulty in sourcing analytical advice and assistance. (DCLG 2008g)
community engagement and involvement Community engagement and involvement is now widely seen as a self-evident virtue. Burton 2004 identifies three key benefits: it aids social cohesion through its developmental effects on individuals and hence on society the planning and delivery of services is effective and decisions are accorded legitimacy since they reflect the interests of participants it is a right of citizenship that is justified on the grounds of due process.
community capacity building A Home Office report, for example, describes it as: “activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills, abilities and confidence of people and community groups to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities.” (HO 2004) A sense of community: a degree of connectedness among members and a recognition of mutuality of circumstance. A level of commitment among community members: this covers the existence of community members who see themselves as stakeholders in the collective wellbeing of the neighbourhood, and their willingness to perform actively in that role. Mechanisms of problem-solving: the capacity to translate commitment into action by identifying priorities and solving problems. Access to resources: economic, human, physical and political, including those external to the neighbourhood.
Challenges and skills local knowledge and analysis: few such organisations pay attention to planning unless it is a funding requirement engaging with the wider community: small organisations often lack the knowledge or confidence to go out and engage more people organisational capacity and leadership: few resources tend to be invested in building this capacity divisions and fragmentation in the neighbourhood: many communities do have social capital, but they lack the capacity to build ties across diverse social groups lack of influence with local power-holders: many community organisations still feel marginalised in partnerships with statutory authorities and other agencies difficulties in securing sustainable funding: four of the twenty organisations in the programme failed to survive in their original form. (JRF 2007)
Location of the skills The role of the facilitator in the JRF programme is not dissimilar from the traditional role of community development workers, Although the traditional specialist role of ‘community development worker’ is now less common, the role continues in specialist niches and services such as neighbourhood management, community arts, health promotion initiatives, anti-drug campaigns, youth work and Sure Start.
developing neighbourhood leaders in touch and able to listen to all sections of their community able to involve others and work in partnership make things happen locally make good use of resources accountable to the community committed to developing new leaders gateways rather than gatekeepers. (DCLG 2009d) lessons to be learned about engaging informal neighbourhood leaders as ‘community ambassadors’, community monitors and even paraprofessionals
Implications Everybody’s business: Neighbourhood policy and practice crosses all sectors—informal, independent, statutory and the voluntary and community sector. It also straddles many organisational and professional boundaries, and is about much more than Skills for Care and the Department of Health. primary health care services, community health services, adults’ and children’s social care and support, early years and primary school provision, neighbourhood policing, a community pharmacy, neighbourhood wardens of some sort, a number of voluntary and community groups, housing offices, commercial and leisure facilities, and some measure of social capital.
Weaving together formal and informal support There has been a tendency for care in the neighbourhood and care by the neighbourhood to develop along separate tracks.
Analytical skills empirical evidence on neighbourliness; reviews of neighbourhood policies; the importance of a joined-up approach; illustrations of good practice; and skills in neighbourhood mapping and data analysis